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Skilled tile installation professionals can help with stone or tile flooring, ceramic or porcelain tile, tile mosaics, and more for installation in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, outside patios and entranceways. Tile installation projects may include tile walls, tile floors, tile backsplashes, tile tubs or shower enclosures, tile countertops, and much more. Professionals can tile small areas under 25 square feet or large areas over 200 square feet, and they can cover concrete, wood or drywall. Many tile installation professionals can also remove existing tile or carpet and other nontile materials. Tile installers generally provide the installation materials needed, including tile cutters, backer board, thinset mortar and other tools of the trade. Clients can provide the tile materials, or the tile installation company can provide it. Several factors affect the cost of tile installation including the average cost of the tile, tile pattern, the tile installation location, local labor costs and more.

Type of tile

Tile prices range from under $1 to well over $50 per square foot, depending on the material, manufacturer and demand. For example, slate tiles cost much more than imitation stone. Selecting tiles with a higher average cost per square foot affects the total cost of a project. In addition, handmade tiles and nonuniform tiles can cost more to install because they must be hand-prepped, or "back buttered," by applying mortar to the uneven components of the back of the tile to ensure that it lays flat. This process results in a higher labor cost.

There are many types of ceramic tile, each with its own characteristics, pluses and minuses.

  • Ceramic tile. What is commonly referred to as "ceramic tile" is usually stoneware, which is a type of ceramics made from gray clay. Stoneware ceramics are fired in a kiln at a higher temperature than terra cotta, making it stronger. Stoneware tiles are often glazed, which gives the tile a colorful, protective coating. Glazed stoneware tiles are usually double-fired in a kiln, making them stronger than unglazed tiles.

  • Terra cotta tile. Terra cotta is the cheapest and most fragile variety of ceramic tiles. It’s the same thing that clay flower pots are made from. Terra cotta has an orange-red color and is often laid without glaze, which makes it highly absorbent.

  • Mexican or "Saltillo" tile. This type of tile is made from terra cotta, but sun-dried instead of baked in a kiln.

  • Quarry tile. Contrary to their name, these tiles do not come from quarried stone but rather are unglazed ceramic tiles. Because they are unglazed, they must be sealed to prevent water absorption and staining.

  • Porcelain tile. Porcelain is the white clay used to make fine china dishes and toilets. For the purpose of flooring, a tile has to complete a series of tests and be certified by the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) for its durability and low water absorption rate to be considered "porcelain." Certified porcelain tile can cost nearly twice as much as regular ceramic tile.

Many tiles are made from harder materials than ceramic:

  • Natural stone tile. Cut stone tiles are strong and durable with pleasing color variations, but they need to be sealed to prevent staining or water damage.

  • Cement tile. Poured into molds, cement tiles can be customized with coloring agents for a custom look.

  • Terrazzo tile. These Italian tiles are made from a cement base mixed with stone or marble chips to create a textured and varied surface.

Aside from ceramic, stone and cement, these are other popular tile materials.

  • Glass tile. Pieces of glass cut into uniform shapes that are bright and translucent. Glass tiles are often used as part of a mosaic pattern but can also be sold as individual tiles.

  • Mosaic tile. Mosaic tiles can be made from ceramic, glass or metal tiles, and then mounted on mesh backing for easy installation.

Tile ratings

Not every tile is good for every surface. High-traffic tile floors, for example, need strong, durable tiles, while less durable tiles might work for areas with lower traffic such as inside a shower. Tile ratings are ranked into one of five classes, with Class V being the most durable and Class I being too fragile for flooring. An experienced tile installer can make recommendations on the best tile product for your application.

  • Class V tile. Heavy-duty tile in this class is approved for commercial and institutional flooring so it can go anywhere in a residential environment.

  • Class IV tile. This class of tile is good for any residential use, without looking like the floor at a school or a hospital.

  • Class III tile. Good for residential areas with a normal amount of foot traffic. I can also be used for walls and countertops.

  • Class II tile. These tiles are for residential areas with light foot traffic such as bathrooms.

  • Class I tile. Keep these tiles on the walls. They are not durable enough for any amount of foot traffic.

Tile size

Floor tiles are usually 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in thickness, and most come as squares that vary in size from 4x4 inches to 24x24 inches. Tiles can also come in other shapes and sizes, including hexagonal, octagonal and rectangular "subway tiles." Small tiles or unusually shaped and sized tiles may take more time and expertise to install, increasing the overall cost of installation.

Tile porosity

A tile’s porosity classification indicates how porous it is and how many air pockets there are in the solid material of the tile. The more porous the tile, the more absorbent it is, which could be good or bad, depending on where it’s installed. Tile porosity is rated according to what degree it is vitreous or glass-like. Here are the porosity classifications of tile:

  • Nonvitreous tile. Bisqueware and terra cotta are not glass-like at all. This is the most absorbent rating for tile, and it’s usually used as decorative or wall tile.

  • Semi-vitreous tile. This type of tile is most common for residential applications outside the bathroom.

  • Vitreous tile. This type is good for most areas inside the bathroom, except for the shower. Keep in mind that a glazed tile is resistant to water on its surface but not on its sides or back. Continued or repeated exposure to water could affect these tiles over time.

  • Impervious tile. This is the least porous tile and is well-suited for high-moisture indoor areas such as baths and showers.

Square footage

Some tile professionals charge for tile installation based on square footage. The cost per square foot varies, depending on where the tiles are installed, how large the surface area to be tiled is and other factors. Here are a couple pricing examples from W&B Villa Construction in Deerfield Beach, Florida:

  • Wood-look tile installation in areas ranging from 6x24 feet to 8x48 feet: $3.20–$3.50 per square foot

    • Prices drop with larger installation areas.
  • Tile installation on 3x5-foot regular tub and shower walls with an 8-foot ceiling: $1,450

    • The same tub and shower walls with tiles reaching up to a 10-foot ceiling: $1,650

Determining the square footage for a tile project is an important part of getting an accurate quote from tile contractors. The easy way to determine the square feet of tile needed is to measure the floor’s length and multiply that number by its width. For example, a 10-foot by 11-foot room would be 110 square feet. But it’s not always that easy. If a room is 12 feet, 7 inches by 10 feet, 2 inches, it gets a little more complicated. When you talk to contractors over the phone, you could round up to the nearest foot to make it 13x11, which would be 143 square feet. It's not a bad idea to overestimate the square footage on a project because contractors might need a little extra because of broken tiles or unusual shapes. You could also convert everything to inches. So 12 feet, 7 inches would be 151 inches and 10 feet, 2 inches would be 122 inches. Thus, 151x122 inches = 18,422 square inches. You then divide the total square inches by 144 (which is 12 inches by 12 inches) to get the total square footage—in this case, 127.9 square feet.

Repair work

If a tile installation project is in an area that has had a leak, mold damage or a structural integrity issue, some contractors can repair the damage to prepare it for new tiles. The overall cost of the project will then increase to cover the added labor, materials and disposal of materials. According to W&B Villa Construction, it’s often necessary to repair the shower pan when retiling a shower. For example, improper installation of the shower liner—cutting and perforation instead of folding—can allow leaks to pass through tiles, and if the shower pan floor isn’t pitched prior to liner installation, water may not be able to drain properly if it leaks through the tiles. W&B Villa Construction charges $800–$1,600 for shower pan repair.

The more moisture connected with the area that needs to be repaired, the more complicated the repair job is likely to be.

Surface prep

It’s easier to install tile on smooth, even surfaces. These types of jobs typically cost less because the installer has less prep work to do before laying the tile. Uneven floors, old flooring that must be removed, and walls or counters that require backer board installation or additional steps beyond the standard preparation may increase overall costs.

Location

Geographic location affects tile installation costs. Tile professionals in larger cities and regions with a higher cost of living typically charge higher rates for services. Very moist or coastal environments can be more challenging for tile installation, so costs may be higher in these regions as well.

Pro tips

  • Be sure to hire a reputable tile installation contractor when doing a new build or bathroom remodel. Improperly installed shower tiles can cause a lot of problems and end up costing more in the long run when leaks occur.
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